In preparation for the dreaded return to work and school in a couple of weeks, I was going through coupons and fliers looking for good lunch box foods.
If you know me well, you know that my recent obsession has been with the quality of foods available to us to feed our families. In the last year we have switched our children over to a slightly better way of eating by eliminating the majority of processed foods from their diet. Not all, but enough that I feel a little better about the things that they ingest.
No more packaged cookies. Chips only on a special occasion. Never packaged dinners or frozen meals. They resisted for a while- my youngest is obsessed with the useless, fruitless fruit snacks- but when they discovered just how good other snacks could be they have slowly given in to mom's new way of doing things.
We now have our milk and other dairy products delivered from a dairy that doesn't use antibiotics or hormones and they do not heat process their milk. A child who previously avoided milk due an uncomfortable allergic reaction now drinks milk by the tall cupful. I had to start having an extra half gallon delivered each week just for him. They don't even like supermarket milk anymore-they swear there is a taste difference.
I have sort of established a standard for myself for purchasing food. I am a trained chemist with a huge chemical vocabulary. I know what all those ethyls and methyls mean and I can sort of decipher what is in the food based on this knowledge. Basically if I used it in a lab, I don't want to eat it. I tell my sister, who is not a chemist to look at the ingredients list. If it is a mile long, it's too long. Less is best. Regular sugar over high fructose corn syrup. NEVER, EVER eat aspartame or feed it to your kids.
Aspartame. That's my newest soapbox. I am a die hard, diet soda drinker. It has been my drink of choice for twenty years. At least it was until about six months ago when I read up on all the affects it might have on one's nervous system. One day my husband, also a former die hard diet soda drinker, decided he was going off soda. I decided to join him. Some of you already know his story but for those of you who don't I am going to share it again.
My husband has struggled with an usual case of severe rosacea for several years. He has seen several dermatologists and taken a myriad of medicines all to no avail. Exactly six weeks after going aspartame free his rosacea completely cleared up.
Every so often I fall off the wagon and have a glass of soda. I miss the cold bubbly drink once in a while so I indulge myself. He, however, doesn't touch the stuff at all anymore.
The drink of choice in our home, aside from that delicious milk, is water. Ice cold water. Occasionally I will buy a bottle of cranberry or grape or apple juice- 100% juice only. The boys play baseball so once in while I will give them a sports drink but never red. Certain red dyes have been suggested to affect some children in negative ways.
Since our transition to a less chemical way of life, I have developed certain food habits that are easy, adaptable to a busy lifestyle and much healthier than a package of cookies. Here are just a few of the easiest:
1. This one I stole from my neighbor- watermelon and cantaloupe make great sweet snacks. I buy one, cut it up or use my ice cream scoop to make melon balls and put in a bowl in the fridge. The boys have free reign to help themselves whenever they are hungry
2. Another favorite- anything that can be dipped in Nutella. Carrots, celery, cucumbers (best from my mother's garden!) and even pretzels or crackers.
3. On suggestion from my mother- instead of buying previously shredded cheeses that use preservatives like cellulose to keep it from sticking I buy bricks of cheese that are minus the cellulose and cost less per pound and shred them myself.
As I poured over coupons and fliers this morning I was discouraged to see that the majority of the coupons available were for processed, packaged items intended to go into the lunch box. I started thinking about other ways to satisfy my boys' appetites on a busy school day and came up with at least one idea. Next week I plan to make several batches of cookies- chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin- and store them in the deep freezer. Each week I will pull out a bag and use it for their lunches. One small thing, with about an hour of time invested, will keep the preservatives out of their lunch box and some money in my pocketbook. Even with coupons, it is far more cost effective to back cookies than to buy them.
I know I have a long way to go before fully accomplishing my goal. I am not even sure it will ever be possible to completely go chemical free but I will keep trying.
Do you have healthy snack ideas or recipes to share? Please post any suggestions in the comments below. I know we can all use new ideas.